Our increasingly internet-based lives are putting extra pressure on our WiFi networks leading many people to ask how you can improve your WiFi signal strength. Before we can delve into how to improve your WiFi, we need to understand how the technology works and why the signal strength can often be weak or lacking.
The signal strength of your WiFi is measured in dBm (decibel milliwatts). The dBm unit will always display as a negative value, for example -54. It’s important to mention that depending on your operating system, your signal strength (RSSI) score may also be represented as a percentage rather than a dBm value, this percentage value is a representation of signal quality. RSSI stands for “Received Signal Strength Indicator” and is a measure of how well your device can receive or “hear” signal from the WiFi router.
We use the word “hear” because noise is also factored into the score. Let us take a look at the common scale for RSSI level and what it means. A score of -30 dBm would be a perfect signal, -50dBm is an excellent signal, -60dBm would be a good signal, and on the other end of the scale we have a -90dBm which would be an unlikely or very poor connection, and -100 which would be no connection at all. The full range goes from 0 to -120 but can vary somewhat depending on the chip vendor.
The noise in wireless communication represents all of the unwanted interferences to the WiFi signal, such as radio interference and distortion. The noise is also measured in dBm from 0 to -120, the same as RSSI.
You may also see the Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) as a measure of WiFi quality. SNR is essentially what it sounds like, it’s defined as the power ratio between a signal and the background noise. A ratio higher than 1:1, which would be greater than 0 dB, indicates more signal than noise. The formula for SNR is Signal/Noise.
This is where things get a little more confusing. The SNR Margin is more commonly used to explain signal strength than SNR when conducting WiFi analysis, and because of this, the SNR Margin is often abbreviated simply as “SNR”. The SNR margin is calculated by subtracting the noise (dBm) from the signal (RSSI). For example, my RSSI is currently -35dBm at the time of writing, and my noise is -90dBm, therefore, my SNR margin would be (-35db signal) – (-90db noise) = 55 SNR margin. The higher the SNR margin is, the stronger the signal.
Now you understand WiFi signal and how to make sense of the values, let us have a look at some ways you can improve your signal strength.
Top Tips To Improve Your WiFi Signal Strength
- Location, Location, Location
With a WiFi router, you want to maximize all the router can offer, and that’s why the position of your router is key. You should avoid positioning your router close to metal objects that emit electromagnetic waves that will increase noise. Placing your router in a central location also improves overall coverage because WiFi is emitted radially rather than in one direction. Elevating your router off the ground also improves coverage for the same reason.
- Upgrade Your Antenna
It’s common for WiFi routers to come with little antennas that are weak. You can boost your signal by investing in a larger and more powerful antenna for your router. Antennas are easy to buy and simple to assemble onto your router.
- Password Protect
This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but you’d be surprised how often WiFi networks are not protected. Sometime’s people get lazy with securing their networks because they assume that since everyone has a WiFi network, there would be no need for a neighbor to leech yours. Password protect your network and use a strong password.
- Invest In a WiFi Booster
WiFi Boosters, often called Extenders or Repeaters act like a middleman for WiFi signal. The booster can be placed at a location where it’s in range of the main router, the booster then makes a second WiFi network that extends beyond its range, allowing devices to access the WiFi they can’t normally access from the main router. Boosters are simple to install even if you’re not particularly tech-savvy.
- Go 5GHz
Most WiFi is on the 2.4GHz by default, but 5GHz provides faster data over shorter distances so by switching you can gain a significant boost in WiFi speed.
Next Steps If Signal Problems Persist
If you’ve tried the tips above and your RSSI and SNR Margins aren’t budging in the right direction you may want to use a WiFi scan app like NetSpot and check your levels of interference.